Local tour guides claim illegal activities conducted in Bacalar Chico

The Island Newspaper, Ambergris Caye, Belize            Vol. 19, No. 13            April 2, 2009

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Aerial view of Bacalar Chico, where the illegal fishing is claimed to be conducted.

Bacalar Chico Marine Reserve, located north of Ambergris Caye, is one of the Belize Barrier Reef World Heritage Site that has come under scrutiny by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). It has also come under the microscope of local residents who have been claiming that Mexican Nationals have been spotted fishing in the reserve, specifically in the Laguna de Cantena area. In addition, at least one local tour guide, who preferred to remain anonymous, informed The San Pedro Sun that fish traps are installed by local fishermen in the reserved area.

    Laguna de Cantena is used by local tour guides for sport fishing such as catch and release. “It is a reserve, so why are fish traps installed in the area,” commented a tour guide. Laguna de Cantena is a lagoon area within the western side of Bacalar Chico Marine Reserve along the Belize-Mexico boarder line.

    Bacalar Chico Marine Reserve Manager Roberto Carballo explained to The San Pedro Sun that while there have been several reports, the management has taken several steps to ensure that those practices are discontinued. “I am just here since November and since then we have gotten some reports. We have acted upon those reports but we have seen nothing much,” explained Carballo, adding that, “we have made some arrests in terms of fishing tour guides caught fishing in the area and we have dealt with those cases through the court system.”

    Carballo said that upon making patrols, they have not spotted illegal Mexican nor Belizean fishermen in the area. Carballo said that after close inspection in the Laguna de Cantena area, they found no fish traps.The management at Bacalar Chico explained however that based on those concerns, since January 15th, along with Hol Chan, they have hired a full time ranger and put a full time patrol in the reserve. In addition Bacalar Chico also recently boosted up beach patrol in the reserve to ensure that illegal fishing is not conducted in the area.

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